2019-01-20 – Acts 17.22-34 – Revealing the Unknown God – 2 of 2
Bible Text: Acts 17:22-34 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2019-01-20 – Acts 17:22-34 – Revealing the Unknown God 2 of 2
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and tomorrow is our national holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Both of these events highlight the value of and sanctity of human life. Something that is most worthy of our recognition indeed.
Snow Snow Snow. I love snow. Last week I shared a few snow facts I learned, that snow actually is formed when ice sticks to a piece of dust in the air, and that each snowflake although different has six sides or points. This week I have a couple more snow factoids for ya:
The record for the most snow in a 24 hour period was in Silver Lake, Colorado in 1921, just over six feet deep, wow! And the largest snowflakes ever observed, fell during a snowstorm was in January 1887 in Montana, witnesses said the flakes were “larger than milk pans,” or about 15 inches wide. Isn’t that awesome!
I found a snow verse to share, Isaiah 55:9-11 – As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Amen?
Well most of you know I am going to Israel at the end of this month for 10 days. I checked and found out that it rarely ever snows in Jerusalem. Right now the temperature is between 40-60 degrees. I am so looking forward to this trip as I will be going with a large group of pastor friends. Thank you all for allowing me the time to go. Adeline’s teacher, Dr. Muck, will be bringing the message in my absence, and I am certain you will enjoy it.
We are currently going through one of the most exciting books of the Bible, the Book of Acts. It was written by a physician named Luke, who traveled with the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, and Dr. Luke kept a record of the things that happened and the things Paul preached. Paul had lived in Israel and probably had seen Jesus and known about His ministry. Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite events in Acts, it deals with how we witness to other people, and about our relationship with God. Question: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are discussing God with people who are coming from a totally different background and belief system? It can be pretty intimidating, especially if they are from a Polytheistic, meaning many gods, religious culture like Hinduism. Polytheism includes most all religions other than Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, which share a common belief in only one God. I have had the privilege to witness to people of all faiths around the world, and I still find it a little intimidating when I talk to my Hindu friends who believe in more than 300 million gods. That is similar to what Paul now finds himself up against as he is in Athens, Greece.
Please turn now to Acts 17, verse 22, page 984 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
This message today is the second part of a two-part message called Revealing the Unknown God. And last week I gave an introduction to dynamics there in Athens, where Paul and his missionary traveling mates find themselves now in.
Here are a few photos of Athens, now and then, with it’s ancient architecture. It was kind of a University City.
The Athenians thought of themselves as scholars of religions and progressive thought. They loved to research and discuss the latest theories and social understandings of the world. There were concrete and stone carvings of gods all around the town, Hermes, Zeus, Athena, Aeros, some of which are still there today. Paul was taken to the Areopagus, which functioned as the court for crimes and religious matters.
Paul now has a perfect setup. Through circumstances beyond his control, he now had a huge audience, and we are going to hear how Paul addresses the officials and scholars there about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this 17th chapter of the book of Acts, Luke records a sermon that Paul gave in which he tells us what is so special and unique about Christianity. I will first read through Paul’s sermon and then we will focus back on a few verses.
Acts 17 – The Areopagus Address
22 Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus [otherwise known as Mars Hill – the place of great debates] and said: “People of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: ‘To an Unknown God.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it—he is Lord of heaven and earth—does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is he served by human hands as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.
26 From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and have our being as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’ 29 Since we are God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
30 “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” [pause]
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him, but others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” 33 So Paul left their presence. 34 However, some people joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Now this was all was happening about 20 years after Jesus had died. Paul had been traveling for quite sometime now, and he had delivered the Gospel message many times to many different cities and people.
In the audience that day were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. We know from history that the Epicurean philosophers generally believed that God existed but that He was not interested or involved with humanity and that the main purpose of life was pleasure. On the other hand, the Stoic philosophers had the worldview that “God was the world’s soul” and that the goal of life was “to rise above all things” they strived to show no emotional response to either pain or pleasure. These groups and others with their dramatically opposing worldviews loved to debate philosophy and religion. And so Paul gave it to them with excellence.
As mentioned earlier, Paul’s presentation of the gospel is a great example for us, both as a pattern for how Paul identified with his audience and as an example of what is called apologetics in action. I love how Paul didn’t belittle his religious audience. He looked and found an excellent way to connect with his audience with the observation that they were “very religious people,” based on the fact that they had many altars and “objects of worship” including even an altar to “the Unknown God.” Paul uses that altar to introduce, without insult, the one true God and the only true way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, the Living God.
This presentation by Paul was unique, because he couldn’t approach these folks like he frequently did with the Jews in the synagogues. There, he at least could start with the fundamental understanding of who God is, However with the Athenians, he didn’t have that existing connection for which to launch from. We too must recognize and respect who is the audience that we are trying to reach. Can you start with an understanding of who God is in Christ, or do you need to go back to maybe even creation, and build from that. Many people don’t know God.
Paul begins explaining to them the sovereign God who created all things and gives life and breath to all things. He continues to explain that it was God who created from one individual, Adam, all men and nations and even appointed the time and boundaries of their lives. He then explains the closeness of God and their need to repent of their rebellion against Him. Paul completes his message by introducing them to the One before whom they would all stand one day and be judged—Jesus Christ, whom God had raised from the dead.
Of course, many in the audience scoffed at the idea that Christ was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day because the idea of the resurrection to the Greeks was foolishness. Yet a few believed what Paul said and joined him.
In that message, two verses stand out, verses 24 & 25: ” The God who made the world and everything in it—he is Lord of heaven and earth—does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.”
God is not served by Human Hands – This message could actually be considered as Good News to some but an insult to others. God is truly the giver of all things, and is the ultimate forgiver to. God truly does the work, and we benefit from His mercy and blessings. Jesus himself said, as written in the Gospel according to Mark (10:45), “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus is our servant, He came to meet our needs. Jesus’s Gospel is not a help wanted sign, it is instead a help offered sign.
Here we have Jesus telling why he came into the world. This is the central Christian claim: Christ, the Son of God became a Son of Man and lived among us. Did He come to recruit workers and servants for God? No. That is not why He came. Jesus came not because He needed us, but because we needed Him.
Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many. God knew that what we needed most of all was someone who would die in our place. Because the Bible says, “the wages of sin is death.”
That is why our greatest need is not for health, or wealth, or marriage repair, or job, or obedient kids. Our greatest need is someone to die in our place and ransom us from the penalty and power of sin, so that we can escape God’s judgment and enter into His eternal life. Only the Son of God Jesus could do that.
The question now is, will we believe this, and will we receive God’s service to us as being the most precious gift in the world? Believing and Receiving, not serving to earn heaven, but serving because we appreciate what God has done for us. That’s the posture of a person who is right with God, trusting in His work for us.
What then is the Christian life? What does it mean to be a Christian? How do you live as a Christian? Well, it doesn’t mean to be a Baptist. It doesn’t mean to be a Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian. Those labels do not make anybody a Christian. Being a Christian means getting up each morning and saying in your heart: Jesus, you are my Savior, my King, my Friend, my Treasure, my Hope, my Joy, my Guide, my Protection, my Wisdom, my Advocate, my Strength. I need You, I love You, I trust You to be all that for me today. Bring Your light to my mind, so that I seek the truth and see You for who You are, infinitely valuable and beautiful. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
The good news this morning is not that God offers to keep us from mortal death or suffering. He doesn’t. The good news is that God works for those who wait for him even in suffering and death. He forgives all our sins, He removes all our guilt, He takes away all our condemnation through the death of Jesus on the cross. He works all things together for our good – even the hardest things. He never leaves us for forsakes us so that “we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:6). And in the end he will carry us safely through death and bring us home to heaven and everlasting life and joy.
His closing word to you this morning is this (Matthew 11:28-30): Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
“Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Can I get an Amen?
What a great lesson we have here today. I pray it makes a difference for you in some small way. God is so good.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation
Let me close with a couple more snow-factoids for you:
According to Guinness World Records, back in 2007, 8,962 people in North Dakota plopped down in the snow to waggle their arms and legs to make the most snow angels at one time. And on January 12, 2013 exactly 5,834 snow fighters came together to create the largest snowball fight in the world.
When people come together with one accord, one vision, one goal, they can do some amazing things, and we too can do some amazing things. So how about we all come together and for the sake of the Great Commission, let us endeavor to make some Christian disciples here in Orion, Illinois, Okay?
Now may the God of peace, who gave his Son as a ransom for many, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working for us and in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”